As the Columbus North girls basketball team was pulling away from Bloomington South in Saturday’s sectional final, one play in particular stood out to Bull Dogs coach Pat McKee.
Elle Williams, North’s 5-foot-11 senior post, was guarding a player on the wing outside the 3-point line. As a shot went up, Williams sprinted to the opposite block under the basket and grabbed the rebound.
That was only one of her 10 rebounds in the Bull Dogs’ 62-35 blowout, but it epitomized the way Williams attacks the glass.
“She has just gone after rebounds like crazy,” McKee said. “She has a knack for it, and she’s focused on it.”
Saturday, Williams will help lead a 24-1 North team into its own regional, where it will be the favorite to defend its title. The Bull Dogs, ranked No. 1 in Class 4A, play Center Grove at 10 a.m. and would face either Bedford North Lawrence or Evansville Central in the title game at 8 p.m.
Williams is a big reason why North has advanced to the regional for the fifth consecutive year. She leads the team with 7.9 rebounds a game, nearly half of which (3.8) are offensive.
“(Junior post player Imani Guy) as well, rebounds a lot, but I think that’s really my role for this team, defensively and offensively, to get the rebounds and keep the ball alive,” Williams said.
McKee noted that while the Bull Dogs shoot 44 percent from the field, that number increases to about 60 percent when they get second shots and rises even higher for third chances. Williams has been an integral part of her team getting those second and third opportunities.
Last year, Williams averaged 5.7 points and 5.3 rebounds as a starter for North’s state championship squad. Her scoring average has dipped to 4.9 a game this season, but she has embraced her role of being a rebounder and defensive stopper.
“She’s a vital piece of the puzzle for us,” McKee said. “She does way more than the obvious stats imply.”
That’s been a big key for the Bull Dogs, who lost leading scorer and rebounder and last year’s Miss Basketball, Ali Patberg, to graduation.
Williams said that all of the returning players knew their roles would change and that they’ve all adjusted accordingly.
Next year, Williams will be adjusting again. Prior to the start of the season, she signed a scholarship offer to continue her career at Academy of Art in San Francisco. She picked the Division II school over St. Francis.
Williams is thinking of majoring in fashion at Academy of Art.
“Although it’s far away, I think it was the best fit for me,” Williams said. “I’ve been playing with these girls since I was 8, but I’m excited about what’s going to come up in the future.”
But for now, Williams and her teammates are focused on bringing home another state championship. The next step comes Saturday in the North Regional.
“We’ve all been playing really well together,” Williams said. “If we play the way we did (Saturday) night, I think we’re going to be good. We’re just one step closer to the big goal.”
Columbus North Regional
Columbus North (24-1) vs. Center Grove (12-12), 10 a.m.
Bedford North Lawrence (19-7) vs. Evansville Central (23-2), noon
Championship, 8 p.m.
Admission: $7 per session or $10 for both sessions